There are two great challenges to be met if one is to attain maturity: self-knowledge and self-acceptance.  Self-knowledge is crucial for growth in the spiritual life.  It is also one of the most difficult things to achieve.  Self deception is not easily avoided.  The opposite, self-deception, is not easily avoided.  We resent criticism, even when it is justified.  We tend to see only what we want to see; to hear only what we want to hear.  Rationalizing about our faults and weaknesses is a constant temptation. We tend to engage in it to justify questionable behavior.   An illustration: the man who read so much about the dangers of smoking he finally decided to give up reading.

The process of acquiring self-knowledge involves ruthlessly evaluating one’s motives, one’s emotions, and one’s needs.  It includes recognizing any dishonesty, any self seeking, any tendency to control or manipulate.  It means calling things by their true name, no matter how painful the discovery and the consequences.   It is not easy to see, to recognize one’s self with all one’s weaknesses and faults and then to accept one’s self with humility and trust.

There are various obstacles to achieving self-knowledge.    We may be laboring under the burden of some deeply entrenched belief or position that affects our judgments and behavior.  Such beliefs may be well-founded and valid and function as good habits.  Conversely, some may be mistaken and harmful.  In any case one is not easily disabused of them.  An example: There was a man who believed he was dead.  Efforts to convince him otherwise failed.  He was sent to a psychiatrist, who after numerous failed efforts took a scalpel and cut the man’s forearm.  He said:  “Look at that.”  The man replied: “So dead men bleed.”

In seeking self-knowledge we would do well to echo the prayer of the blind man of Jericho: “Lord, that I may see!.” Adding “that I may see myself as I truly am in your sight i.e. as a sinner, but a sinner washed in the blood of Christ.”

Self-knowledge and self acceptance are to be complemented by self-surrender, a complete giving over of one’s self into the hands of God, with full confidence that God both knows and wills what is best for us.  Self-surrender means the contradictions of life, the inconsistencies, even the incompatibilities, have been assumed in an act of faith in God’s providence.